Avenue Q at ANU Arts Centre

27 Oct
Yes this is a fridge magnet

Yes this is a fridge magnet

I met the news from a post at the Riot Act that Avenue Q was being performed again in Canberra with a curious double bill of excitement and scepticism.   Having been thrilled by a performance at London’s West End in 2009 (much like other reviewers at the Riot Act, oddly!) and listening to the soundtrack for literally weeks afterwards, I desperately wanted to see it again – but was unsure just how well the much smaller and local Repertory Society (or Supa Productions? I’m not sure who actually ran this thing – another fault!) would be able to pull it off. I decided to give it a chance after seeing some rave reviews.

The links on the Rep’s booking page are annoying – I’d attempted to book a Saturday night on a late Friday afternoon, but their online site wouldn’t allow me and their office had seemingly closed outside the hours advertised. Instead, I learned my lesson and booked tickets much earlier the following week for the Friday night session at the ANU Arts Centre.

We were able to purchase a beverage or two in ANU’s neighbouring Teatro Vivaldi and consumed them in the increasingly busy lobby before being ushered in, with specific – and repeated – loudspeaker instructions that beverages couldn’t be taken in. The theatre size is pretty much ideal for the stage, and while our seats were on the far left hand side, the seats are at the right height so you’ve got a great view – and no pesky big heads in the way!

The show itself is probably best described as ‘Muppets Go Wild’. The set and some of the characters are unmistakably inspired by Sesame Street, most notably Rod and Nicky who look and act rather like Bert and Ernie.  But the similarities don’t go much further than that. The basic storyline is that a ‘human’ muppet moves to Avenue Q fresh out of university (‘What Do You Do With a BA in English?’) and is trying to find his purpose in life.  He meets all the residents of Avenue Q – a mix of monsters, other ‘human’ muppets and actual humans.  He starts a relationship with Kate Monster, and then betrays her – but finds his purpose when he tries to rectify his wrongs.  The muppets are expertly handled by the performers appearing with them on stage, doing their movements but also mimicking the muppets’ movements and facial expressions themselves so as not to detract.

The cast of Avenue Q performs "It Sucks t...

Image via Wikipedia - Kate Monster (not from the Canberra production!)

The show is politically incorrect in every way you could possibly think of. It tackles ‘coming out’, pornography, death, temptation, racism (‘Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist’), schadenfreude and has what can only be described as, well, graphic puppet sex.

So, did they pull it off? As I mentioned earlier, I’d read elsewhere that they undoubtedly did, and because of this I went in even more cynical than I usually am. But they pulled it off. Absolutely. I was blown away with the calibre of performances, the set, the music, and especially the vocal performances.  I only have one criticism – but it’s a big one: the sound levels were off. Sometimes the performers had to sing at quite low vocal ranges, and the volume of the music would make their voices indistinct – and as anyone who has any understanding of Avenue Q knows, it’s the lyrics that really make the show. This was a real disappointment, and a surprise – you’d think after two weeks of performances they’d have really nailed the sound.

The cast of Avenue Q performs "It Sucks t...

Image via Wikipedia - not from the Canberra production!

That aside, Avenue Q was simply great. Of course I’m biased towards the story itself because I’d seen it before, but it was just as, if not more, enjoyable a second time, even in a much smaller and more amateur setting – so that’s saying a lot. I’m just a bit annoyed I hadn’t gone sooner so I couldn’t have told more people to attend! I’ll definitely be seeing more Rep (or Supa Productions?) performances if the calibre of this one was anything to go by.

Attendees: T1 + boyfriend

Cost: $39 each + drinks

Location: ANU Arts Centre (next to Teatro Vivaldi)

Worthwhile factor: Highly worthwhile

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